A new briefing paper on nursing home charges published today says that older people and their families are being prevented from choosing nursing homes under the Fair Deal scheme because of additional charges.
Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people, includes statements from social workers working with older people and case studies from the families of nursing home residents in the paper to support calls for greater transparency and accountability.
Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications, said: “One of the key principles of the Fair Deal scheme is that older people have choice. No one is prevented from choosing the nursing home they prefer because of their incomes.
“But steadily increasing charges imposed by nursing homes are pricing older people and their families out.
“When someone on the State Pension is left with only €50 a week after making their contribution under Fair Deal they are simply not going to be able to afford a nursing home charging €200 a month for social activities.”
Supported by social workers
Age Action’s claims are backed up by statements from social workers working with older people.
One social worker told Age Action: “A family I have been working with has just spent days visiting nursing homes in the south Dublin and Wicklow area. They’re being quoted extra charges of €85 a week and they simply can’t afford that.”
Another social worker said: “I have one patient whose family just can’t pay anything extra and because of this she is now on the waiting list for a public nursing home bed.”
The report also contains two case studies from members of the public who contacted Age Action regarding the costs being imposed by nursing home management.
Michelle’s mother found herself being charged for a “Doctor’s Service” even though she has a full medical card. The nursing home refused to provide an itemised bill and, after it was confirmed to Michelle that such a charge was illegal, she engaged a solicitor.
Conor’s mother has a long list of additional services for which she is being charged that will cost almost €4,500 a year in addition to what is being paid under the Fair Deal Scheme.
Families caught in the middle
Justin Moran continued: “Nursing homes insist that they have to pass on these charges because the National Treatment Purchase Fund does not cover the costs of the services they provide or that HIQA has instructed them to put in place.
“There is some truth to this but while nursing homes and the NTPF argue over euros and cents, it’s nursing home residents and their families who are paying the real cost.
“And even that argument doesn’t excuse the extortionate costs some nursing homes impose, including for services that residents are physically unable to use.”
Age Action's proposals
Last week Age Action met with Minister of State with Responsibility for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly TD to discuss nursing home charges.
Justin Moran continued: “We had a good meeting with the Minister and I’m convinced he wants to work with us and with nursing homes’ representatives to put in place a fairer and more transparent system.”
Age Action’s proposals fall into three main categories:
- Transparency: The fees charged by nursing homes should be publicly available online, easy to understand and it should be clear what service a resident is getting for the money they pay.
- Accountability: Nursing home charges must be properly regulated to ensure there is no overpricing and residents informed they can take complaints over fees to the Office of the Ombudsman and be empowered to do so.
- Income: Nursing home residents with an assessed income of €300 or less should be allowed retain a minimum of €60 to enable them to cover day-to-day living costs instead of the current €44.40.